Raul Hilberg, a world-renowned Holocaust scholar, has died from a recurrence of lung cancer, his wife said. He was 81.
Hilberg, a professor emeritus of political science at the University of Vermont, died Saturday, said his wife, Gwen. Though he had lung cancer, he never smoked, she said. He died with her at his side at the Vermont Respite House in Williston.
Hilberg was the author of The Destruction of the European Jews (1961), a landmark study of the Nazi killings of more than 5 million Jews.
He was honored by the German government for his contributions and teaching on the Holocaust and was elected a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 2005, according to the university.
Hilberg, who taught at the university from 1956 to 1991, started the school’s Holocaust Studies program. The university later created the Center for Holocaust Studies in 1992 “to honor Hilberg’s teaching and research accomplishments. “
“The entire university community is saddened by the loss of this great scholar, but comforted in the legacy of writing and research he leaves for those who seek to understand one of the darkest, defining chapters in human history,” university president Daniel Mark Fogel said.
Hilberg and his parents left Austria in 1938 after the Nazi invasion emigrated to the United States, where Hilberg served in the U.S. Army in Europe during World War II.
As a member of the War Documentation Project, he found Hitler’s private library in crates stored in Munich, the university said. That prompted him to start investigating the Holocaust.
“Once the Nuremberg Trials were over and a few people judged guilty, no one wanted to talk about it. But I was driven by a desire to know what happened,” he had said.
He earned a B.A. degree from Brooklyn College in 1948, and a M.A. and Ph.D. from Columbia University in 1950 and 1955.
Hilberg also was author of Perpetrators Victims Bystanders (1992); The Politics of Memory (1996); and Sources of Holocaust Research (2001).